Preview: Star Wars: The Old Republic MMOBy Abbie Heppe - Posted Mar 15, 2010
Last week I had the chance to stop by LucasArts in San Francisco, a place that still makes me giddy, to play soon-to-be-released MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. I got to try out the Trooper, an action-point gunner class that smacks, spiritually, of Dark Forces’ Kyle Katarn, only working for the Republic as the newest member of Havok Squad.
Though I only saw a small snippet of the full Trooper story (all 8 classes have their own epic storyline), it treads on ground more morally ambiguous than say, the Jedi Knight or Sith Warrior, with many opportunities to assist or forsake separatists and other factions in opposition to the Empire. As the game progresses, the Trooper rises higher and higher in the ranks of the military, but our demo was set at level 6, which is probably somewhere around the rank of Imperial peon given the speculated 50 level cap. I was told that the further you progress in the Trooper’s story, the more pivotal your position in the Republic's military is and you’ll be quite concerned with how you’re viewed in the galaxy.
What I didn’t see (tough in a short demo) was too much of the RPG elements. I had a short interaction with NPCs for a main mission and side quest in which I did have dialogue choices that seemed important. I was also blocked from more of the MMO-sy elements of the game, choosing my own EQ for the character, meddling with anything not on my given HUD, playing with many others (save Morgan Webb sweeping into my game and shooting everything before I could) but all with good reason as the point of the demo was to see how well gunplay worked in the world (and MMOs are sometimes not the easiest genre to hop right into from a random point).
That said, what the Trooper demonstrates best are the two most compelling aspects of SW:TOR (at least to me), the ability to play solo and have fast-paced action, like you’d expect in a game bearing the Star Wars name. I was having little trouble dispatching multiple enemies with combinations of blaster fire, rifle grenades, the quick melee attack and full auto mode, which can pin enemies down with continuous fire. My favorite though, is the sticky grenade, because tagging enemies with inescapable doom is always delightful. In short, that promise of SW action in an MMO setting was fulfilled in my playthrough.
While by no means a finished game, SW:TOR sure is fun to play, and it’ll be interesting to see how much of the scope of the universe is detailed in the time leading up to the Spring 2011 release window. For the inside scoop from Daniel Erickson (lead writer, Bioware) and Jake Neri (Producer, LucasArts), you can watch Adam interview them on X-Play and G4tv.com in the days to come. They talk all about how far along the game is, how Star War-sy it is (very!), how female characters actually wear clothing, and how SW:TOR is “bigger than every game we’ve ever made combined”.